Birthplace: Paris, France
Location of death: Paris, France
Cause of death: Natural Causes
Remains: Buried, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Executive summary: ACDelco and Champion spark plugs
Albert Champion was a top French cyclist who won two major races, but was drawn to the new sport of auto racing. In the early 1900s he came to America to avoid conscription in France, and in 1903 he was nearly killed when he was thrown from his car in an accident during a race. He subsequently quit driving race cars, but remained involved in the design and manufacture of spark plugs and magnetos in his workshop. In 1905 he established the Champion Spark Plug Company, with a $2,000 investment from two Boston brothers, Frank and Robert Stranahan of Boston. After a few years, however, Champion and the Stranahans differed on how to run the business, and Champion left the firm.
In 1908, he opened a new business called Champion Ignition Company, in a third-floor office above the Buick factory in Flint, Michigan -- his new financial backer was the founder of General Motors, William C. Durant. In the early 1920s, Champion's first company sued his second company for trademark infringement, and in a settlement reached in 1922 his second company was re-named for Champion's initials, AC Spark Plug Company (now ACDelco). Both companies remain leaders in spark plug sales.
Champion became a very wealthy man, and returned to his native France, where he soon divorced his wife to marry a much younger woman. After five years of marriage, suspecting infidelity, Champion followed her to a Paris night club on 25 October 1927, where she had arranged a rendezvous with her lover, one Charles Brazelle. An angry confrontation ensued, and Champion received a severe beating at Brazelle's hand that left him barely able to walk away. He died of a heart attack in his hotel room a few hours later, and the coroner ruled that his death was due to natural causes.
Wife: (div. 1921)
Wife: Edna Crawford Champion (b. 1898, m. 1922)
Automotive Hall of Fame 1977
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